Schell: Easter the best time to delve into the mysteries of chocolate

Master chocolatier Thomas Haas at his chocolate factory in North Vancouver.  Yes, that is chocolate flowing from the taps. - Contributed
Master chocolatier Thomas Haas at his chocolate factory in North Vancouver. Yes, that is chocolate flowing from the taps.
— image credit: Contributed

Easter is the quintessential chocoholic’s favourite holiday that automatically makes the Easter Bunny a hero in my eyes. I even had the opportunity to spot his shadow sneaking out the back door when I was around six years old—basket, ears and all. I was a child of great imagination, and one who utterly and completely bought into the magic every holiday.

Speaking of magic, I had the opportunity to meet one of Mr. E. Bunny’s suppliers in Vancouver a couple of weeks ago—Thomas Haas. His wondrous energy and grand sense of humour, highlighted with a delightful sparkle of mischief in his eyes (and a last name that actually means rabbit, or hare, in his native German). With Mr. Haas and his chocolate treats that day, I was six again.

With an astounding career behind him, Thomas Haas, is as humble as he is passionate about his craft. Thomas was part of the biggest restaurant opening of all time in New York City. Chosen as executive pastry chef, he stood alongside French superstar chef Daniel Boulud at the exciting opening of Daniel.

Hailing from the Black Forest in Germany (I’ll bet this is where the Easter Bunny is from too), Thomas is a fourth generation pastry chef who grew up in his family’s pastry shop in the village of Aichhalden. Trained in Germany, Thomas went on to work in several Michelin starred restaurants in Europe.

From there he moved to Canada and became the esteemed executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver before leaving for his New York stint at Daniel.

Lucky for us, his love of British Columbia’s sea and mountainscapes brought him here in 2000 to start his own business, Thomas Haas Fine Pastries and Desserts Ltd.

And the rest is sweet history.

Feeling quite like Charlie must have when he entered Willy Wonka’s factory, I was swept away first by the charm and warmth of this famous chocolate maker. Thomas is a true artist and you can see that he truly adores what he does.

Touring the factory, I floated on cloud nine trailing along behind him as he pointed out the taps to the right with chocolate flowing nonstop, and to the left where trays of truffles were pulled out for me to sample. It was a dream date indeed with one extremely gracious host.

A chocolatier with a global conscience, the Haas philosophy includes sourcing cocoa beans from two organically grown cocoa plantations from South America, the Carribbean and Grenada to “ensure that the chocolates that we use are fairly traded, some of it certified by the Rainforest Alliance.”

Please make time to experience the Haas magic next time you are in Vancouver. He has a shop on 4th Avenue and the factory is in North Vancouver. Have a coffee and a croissant—the almond is divine—before you load up your shopping bag with chocolates in every form. PS: There is a warning on the chocolate bar box: May contain a warm fuzzy feeling.

Thomas Haas can probably add “most fit” chocolatier in the world to his resume. Known for his love of bike riding, he has biked across most of Europe and B.C. and is planning a trip through our beautiful Okanagan this summer. That said, for those of you chocolate and wine lovers out there who need a yoga bender, check out this amazing weekend experience created by amazing yoga teacher Laura.

Detox & Retox Retreat June 17 to 19. A luxury three-day, two-night Wine, Dine, Yoga and Spa Retreat at Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon.

The retreat includes

• Two nights’ accommodation (based on double occupancy) at Sparkling Hill Resort. Rooms are Mountain View and include two queen size beds

• Two buffet style breakfasts at Peak Fine Restaurant at Sparkling Hill

• Two two-course dinners at Peak Fine Restaurant

• One winery lunch

• Transportation to and from Arrowleaf Cellars, Ex Nihilo Winery, and Gray Monk Winery.

• One spa treatment credit. Treatment could be a Fango Wrap (volcanic mud), a Cold Sauna Treatment, a 45-minute Classic Manicure, or a $50 Kurspa credit towards any other treatment. See website for details of the Spa at Sparkling Hill.

For yoga classes, meditation and more, check out Laura’s website for other upcoming retreats—one involving chocolate!

Jennifer Schell is editor of B.C. Wine Trails Magazine.


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